Awards Are Awesome: Here are some more!

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Game of the Fuckin’ Year: Alan Wake

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When I first played Alan Wake, I have experienced something that has only occurred a few other times during my life as a gamer. It also happened when I first played Yoshi’s Island, Metroid Prime, Resident Evil 4 and Half-Life 2. I have played all these games until 3-4am, slept for 3 hours and then resumed playing before going to class, during which I fantasized about playing some more. Whenever this phenomenon occurs, I know it in my gut that I have just experienced a great game.

Alan Wake is a great game and it certainly is the best thing I’ve played in 2010.

But what truly captivates me about this game are the little touches. The radio shows; the red chair, with beer cans on the side, set in front of a dam; the tangent descriptions you read on the manuscript pages; the Night Springs TV shows; the crazy developer of the Night Springs videogame; the Alan Wake cut-out Barry steals from Rose; the countdown to Deerfest, etc. I love to find that kind of care in the smallest of details. Ultimately, it’s what makes the world of Bright Falls believable.

I also love how Alan’s internal conflicts are projected onto the gameplay. Note, for instance, the very nature of the Taken: how they dress and what they speak. These are mostly authority figures, trying to reprimand Alan (“omega 3 fatty acids are good for your health [so finish up your plate!]), debate him (“[No!] Fishing can be a hobby OR a JOB!”) and remind him of his failures (“You’ve missed your deadline!”). That these came from Wake’s mind tells you how he uses his writing as an escape valve. That he deals with all that non-constructive criticism with shotgun shells is also very telling.

Alan Wake is the closest gaming ever got to filmic masterpieces such as Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories and Fellini’s 8 ½ about artists in conflict with their own art. Who would guess we needed to inspire ourselves with Stephen King in order to achieve that?

 

 

Disappointment of the Year: No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle –

It’s no secret that I love the original No More Heroes. It’s also no secret that I absolutely despised everything about No More Heroes 2. It’s a game born from an Excel analysis that desperately wants to be loved, but can’t hide the fact it has no soul.

Oh, but does it try! From the NES-like minigames to the Sylvia’s peepshow introductions, the game wants to scream Hey! Look how I’m still hip and indie! I’m pure post-modernism! but it still sounds insincere as it ends up trivializing everything the original game cared about. One has the impression director Ichiki tries to emulate Suda, but fails to have a vision of his own. The result is a game that always fails to answer the most basic question: why should you care?

Why should you care about Travis’ quest of revenge when the game never bothers to show how the object of Travis’ revenge was ever meaningful to him? Why should you care about the bosses when they don’t even bother to introduce themselves? Why should you care about the NES minigames, when you don’t have any real use for the reward you get by playing them? Why should you care about playing as Henry or Shinobu when they barely know the reason they are in the game themselves? Why should you care about Travis when we lost we perspective we had about his life? In fact, why should anyone care about Desperate Struggle?

 

 

Best Moment of 2010

The Children of the Elder Gods concert in Alan Wake.

You know this moment was coming, you read about it in a manuscript page, and yet nothing could prepare you for how exactly epic this moment is. Gone are the times you’ve spent lurking in the woods, now the game’s combat mechanics reach their climax as you must battle countless Taken in a rock show battle with hosted by The Poets of the Fall. A better description: HELL YEAH!

 

Runner-up:

Looking at the broken ceiling of the original Normandy as I rushed to save Joker in Mass Effect 2.